16 Aug 2018

NORTHERN COUNTRIES - St. PETERSBURG - TALLIN/ESTONIA




From all the walking around and sitting in the Bus I had swollen feet and as it rained a bit I decided to stay in our hotel and rest. Part of the others went on their own discovering more museums in St. Petersburg  the others had taken an extra excursion to Moscow. We hadn't done it, because for us Moscow is not that far, as if we would come from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or even only from the States. So I had a pleasant day in our cozy hotel and could sort out my pictures a bit.

It had been a good idea, to rest, because the next day we visited the St. Petershof in the moring and in the afternoon the huge museum the Hermitage.



St. Peterhof was stunning, and there were many people but we still could see the beautiful golden statues and wells. We had to laugh about the Russian word Kacca which in French would be (elegantly) shit ! It was incredible what richness was shown here ! I had never seen so many gold at once. Of course I will describe and write later about this beautiful place.

Then we took the Hydrofoil from the Neva river embankments back to St. Petersburg, which was very nice and very quick. Unfortunately I can't show any pictures because when I got out of the boat somebody helped me although I didn't need any help, later I understood why he was so helpful, he had stolen my camera !! Fortunately I had put all my photos each evening on my computer so only a few pictures were lost. I also had taken a spare camera with me so it was not such a big catastrophe, but I was very upset ! I had really payed attention but apparently not enough.

After lunch we were taken to the Hermitage museum, which is enormous. Also enormous was the amount of tourists who wanted to get in. We managed with our guide, but honestly it was a nightmare ! They let far too many people going inside, there is no limit,  it was so full that nobody could see anything or very few and we got all quite angry. As I couldn't see any painting and our time was limited for such a huge museum, I only took pictures from the building, the rooms and the furniture to show how the tsar family had lived.  So we almost were pushed and pulled from the people in a marathon speed through the museum, it was hot and there was a lack of oxygen. I only had one wish to go out of this hell ! And not only me others too.



It was a pity but still at least I had seen the inside and maybe one day I come back and look at all these beautiful things in peace or when it is better organized.

The next day we went to Estonia to the little town of Tallinn. For that we had to leave Russia and go through the border circus again ! We were parked in a room and had been told to keep quiet and not to speak too loud. The trouble is when somebody says that to me I have to do the opposite. I spoke as usual and nobody bothered us. I also quickly got my stamp proving  that I had really left the country ! I had no intention to stay there, but they probably thought I would love to live in Russia !

Then we were into Europe again ! Estonia also has the Euro so we could compare the prices with ours in Belgium, and were surprised that it was not that cheap as we had thought. The town was medieval and very charming !



The people very friendly and old was mixed with modern buildings ! My friend and I enjoyed a alcohol FREE beer, and had never seen such a huge bottle ! It had been imported from Russia. After that we weren't thirsty anymore ! In the evening we had a nice supper all together and had a lot of fun ! The next day we leave for Riga in Latvia.

We enjoy our trip very much, so far everything went smooth and we are a very nice group.





13 Aug 2018

NORTHERN TOUR - FROM HELISINKI TO ST. PETERSBURG RUSSIA




From Helsinki to St. Petersburg it was a boring trip only interrupted by the Russian border control, which went rather smooth. First the Asian nationalities, then we two Europeans,  South Africans, New Zealand, Australians, Canadians, and at the last the Americans ! With my German passport I got a big smile and a "Gute Reise" which means have a nice trip ! No photos allowed of course


First stop in Russia after the border

We then had lunch, I took something which looked like a mixture of potato and fish made as a thick pancake. It tasted very good.
After the extreme high prices of the Scandinavian countries, we now had unbelievable low prices ! I payed (an ice cream included) not even 6 € (nearly the same in Dollars) which was the price of a coffee in Sweden !!

When we finally arrived in St. Petersburg, my feet were so swollen that I could hardly walk  We checked into the Matisow hotel, a nice modernized hotel which reminded me some hotels in the UK  ! I mean the decoration. We had a huge room with all comfort.

I noticed that the city was very busy, lots of cars and completely different as I imagined. There were the same stores and shops as in Western countries, even Mac Donald and Starbuck everything very modern and all new cars. Didn't look like a poor town at all !!



Of course we had to stop in a souvenir shop ! Most of us bought something except me, I found the prices very expensive and I was right, later in the city you found the same items but half price cheaper !



Our sightseeing tour was very nice and interesting. The city is very expanded, I still don't know where the city center is, probably there are several. Unfortunately I have to stay in the hotel today, most of my companions went to Moscow, but I have troubles with my feet they are swollen and look like elephant feet. As we stay here for 3 days I decided not to move and take care of my feet !

It's also difficult to walk around by myself because I feel like an illiterate I can't  read at all! Only a few important things were written in our writing. Only very very few speak English or another language. Tomorrow we will go to the Hermitage Museum.


11 Aug 2018

NORTHERN TOUR : STOCKHOLM - HELSINKI



We still had beautiful weather when we left for Stockholm. When we arrived we explored the city in our bus, but continued walking to see the red, orange and terracotta coloured buildings.




The town center is old and has some crooked houses but we went there in the afternoon.



First we wanted to see the museum which houses the 17th century, 64 gun warship, the Vasa. It was really amazing to see such an old ship fully intact !

Then we left Stockholm to join our Ferry boat taking us to Helsinki ! I had never been on such a ferry it was like a cruise ship ! We had to check in almost like for an airplane, I had scissors with me and had to open my bag, but finally the guy let me through with my scissors and I promised I wouldn't kill anybody ! The ship was huge and had 10 floors, 7 with cabins and 2 with restaurants, shops, slot machines, a night club etc. It also was very nice to sit on the deck !



This was our ferry you can see my friend Bunny walking towards the check in and me sitting in our cabin without windows of course. But it was comfortable we had a good bed and a bathroom with shower, everything we needed for a night. I felt like sleeping in a cradle rocking softly ! Only when I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night I walked like a drunken sailor ! It was really a very special experience !

At 9 am we arrived in Helsinki and did first a tour with our car. Then we were left alone our guide disappeared.



After having walked around and found a church we should visit closed because of a wedding, we discovered the city alone. We had a nice meal on the market, Bunny ate reindeer meatballs (poor Rudolf) and I had fish. It was served with little potatoes and vegetables.

As there was nothing special to see in Helsinki, we took a sightseeing boat which took us around some islands, apparently there are hundreds of them all around, and people usually have a weekend house there or uses a little island for holidays.

We were quite tired when we arrived in our hotel, which as usual is very comfortable and very nice.
Next time you will hear from me in St. Petersburg if I have time ! We will go there tomorrow !

8 Aug 2018

NORTHERN TOUR - AMSTERDAM - HAMBURG - COPENHAGEN




Finally I find some time to write a bit about my Northern Tour adventure.  The next day after our arrival arrived the others to join the group. At 5 pm we finally were all together and the presentations could begin. Our tour leader is a young woman from the UK. The travelers are from all countries : The United States, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Malasya, Philippines, and finally us, the two Europeans from Belgium.

Then we all went to our bus to start the tour with a Pizza cruise on the Amsterdam canals



The pizza was very good and we enjoyed the landscape passing by.



We also saw this old ship and the museum of science. Of course we saw a lot more, but my time is restricted.



The next day on our way to Hamburg we stopped in a farm where we also visited a clog maker. As I had seen this already before, I preferred to stay in the stable, the smell there reminded me of my childhood. One of the cows loved or loved not my red outfit, because she bumped all the time against my arm. I tried to pet her head, but that she didn't like either. She apparently wanted bread, but I didn't have any.

The trip was very well organized, we stopped each  two hours for a "comfort stop" because a bus driver is not allowed to drive more than 2 hours.

Meanwhile we knew each other better and the ambiance in the bus was very funny. Some coming from far fell asleep because of the jet lag !

When we arrived in Hamburg it was very, very hot ! 36° C ! Bunny and I didn't want to walk around more than necessary in this heat, so we followed our guide for a short visit of the city but then took a sightseeing boat on the Alster.



This had been the best idea ever, because on the boat it was not so hot and we had a nice breeze and we saw the skylines of Hamburg, interesting buildings and the captain explained what we saw ! It was really very nice.



Before walking back to the bus, we had a nice supper at the river, enormous portions !

The next day we crossed the border to Denmark and had to show our passports for the first time. As Denmark had no Euros, we payed everything by card, not to have foreign coins in our pockets with which we couldn't do anything.



Copenhagen is a beautiful and interesting city. We followed our guide for a tour through the city and saw the famous Mermaid, which is a little disappointing and we couldn't understand why it had become so famous. We also saw the house of Christian Andersen the storytellers for the kids (and adults) and then had supper at the seaside. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of the restaurant. Believe it or not I had fish and chips !! Copenhagen is very expensive for a small beer you pay 9 Euros and for a coffee I payed 5. The food too was very expensive. I think I have never eaten such luxury "fish and chips" in my whole life.

We were quite exhausted from the long day and went back to the hotel with our bus at around 7 pm, while a few others stayed in the city to see a bit of the night life, especially when they heard that it one street you are allowed to smoke canabis !

I sorted out my pictures and wrote this text, tomorrow morning we are off to Stockholm !

6 Aug 2018

NORTHERN COUNTRIES TOUR - START



Finally the day of our departure arrived ! Mr. G drove us to the Waterloo station from where we took the train to Brussels North. As it was a Sunday the shops around the Bus station were closed ! Stupid idea ! We wanted to buy a little lunch to eat  in the bus as we were supposed to leave at 11 am. Finally we found a Starbucks in the Station where we had a coffee and a croissant and could buy a Sandwich and a drink for our trip.

The Bus arrived with nearly an hour late, but caught up as there was nearly no traffic on the roads. In the morning while we were waiting for the Bus it was quite cool but then during the day it became hot again. We arrived punctually in Amsterdam.

I had booked a taxi to take us from the Duivendrecht station to our hotel, which arrived 15 min later after I had called them.We had to go to the Hilton Hampsted in  Hoofddorp an outskirt of Amsterdam



The hotel is very nice, but had no restaurant. So we went to Hoofddorp center and found several once side by side, unfortunately I forgot to take pictures, which is sad because every restaurant had plenty of flowers around.



As we arrived in the city center, which is also very modern I saw from far this strange sculpture



I still do not know what it represents a ! Robocop perhaps ?



There was a beautiful park around with a little canal and a lot of ducks.

After supper we returned to the hotel and rested on our beds, we wanted to be fresh for today when the group arrives. We especially had decided to arrive one day earlier not to hurry to join the group.

This morning we had breakfast sitting at the window



with this beautyful view



And as we have time until 2 pm when the rest of the group arrives, I took the opportunity to start my little travel diary.


3 Aug 2018

FRIDAY's FAVE FIVE

Normal life began on Monday after I had come back from Amsterdam. I had to fill in the fridge and bake a bread, not me but the machine.

I also went to Nicole to report my holidays in Amsterdam and see little Isis, the cat she had adopted from a shelter.



Isis had put on some weight, which was necessary and had taken possession of the whole apartment. She doubtless has become the queen of her domain. She is very sociable and her cross eyed look always makes me laugh.




We also got together for a scrabble first time since a month, because some of us were on holidays. It was warm and wee enjoyed playing outside only one game, the heat made us lazy and we had a long coffee break, actually it wasn't a break because we didn't continue.

The rest of my time I spent thinking of my suitcase for my big trip and wash and put clothes aside I want to take along. Packing a suitcase is not a problem but to think of everything and to forget nothing is another story. I still have two days left to check if I have everything.



Because this time it is a very big trip through 10 countries it needed some paperwork too, for Russia, the other countries were not a problem they are part of Europe and my passport was enough.

It seems that the weather will be very nice everywhere and even sometimes hot ! So I don't need thick clothes. What an exceptional summer we have.

I leave on Sunday morning and from now on I will report about my trip whenever I can, but I am certainly not able to answer your comments !

I am travelling together with a friend who speaks English too and we will come back on August 23.






more participants at Susanne at Living to tell the Story.